a caregiver, you will likely find yourself involved in financial
matters. Even if the patient is not your spouse or partner,
you may find that you want or have to contribute your own
money to the care of the patient. This can be an expensive
commitment. Medical bills and prescriptions can become very
costly, leaving you wondering how you and/or the patient will
make ends meet. It is important not to panic. There are ways
to better manage money, receive financial assistance, and
get the most coverage possible from the patient's health care
best way to get a handle on the patient's finances is to work
out a budget. Start by writing down all regular monthly expenses,
or mortgage payments
and utility bills
(car payments, gas,
public transportation, tolls, parking)
or elder-care costs
expenses (prescriptions, medical supplies, other medical
and accounting fees
other monthly expenses
you have written down all of these expenses, add up the total,
deduct this from your monthly income, and review the amount
left. If you find that cash is low, you may want to try some
of the following options:
bills. First pay for essential expenses, such as food,
shelter, and medication. Postpone payment of larger medical
or credit card bills.
your utility companies (gas, electric, phone) about assistance
programs they may offer to help people who cannot
meet their payments.
out whether the pharmaceutical companies that produce
your family member's medication offer prescription
medicine assistance programs.
sure your family member is receiving his/her Social
Security benefits (Retirement, Disability, Survivor,
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Black Lung benefits).
into dependent-care tax exemptions or credits for
if there are family caregiver assistance programs
offered at your local agencies on aging.
other ways to bring in income, such as working
from home, asking family members for a loan, or requesting
help with bill payment from other household members.
Here are some agencies that can assist you in obtaining these
and other financial options.
Receiving huge medical bills from the hospital or doctor can
cause a lot of anxiety. Reading the bill, figuring out how
it will be paid, and determining which services should be
covered by the patient's insurance company are some of the
problems you may face. Here are things you can do to help
minimize the stress associated with these activities.
are certain services that insurance plans will and will not
pay for. It is important for you to know what is covered in
order to follow procedures that will maximize coverage, such
as getting a referral before seeing a doctor. It will also
help to ensure that the patient is getting all benefits to
which he/she is entitled. If you have trouble understanding
the insurance contract, ask someone with more experience to
help you or call the insurance company with specific questions
about what is covered.
is not uncommon to be billed incorrectly by the hospital or
doctor. Look over each bill carefully and make sure that the
patient is not being billed for services that were not received.
If you find charges that are doubtful, call the billing department
of the hospital or doctor's office for clarification.
a huge medical bill arrives asking for payment of the "amount
due," don't panic. Many times, bills are sent out before payments
are received from the insurance company. If you are concerned,
you can call the billing office at the hospital and ask if there
are any insurance claims pending on the patient's account. If
so, you can wait until all payments are received from the insurer
before paying the bill.
Some doctor's offices or insurance companies require the insured
person to submit claims, rather than the billing office. If
you have to fill out claim forms and submit them, be sure to:
Claims may be denied for any number of reasons, including
mistakes on claim forms, missing documents, or varying practices
of claims adjusters. If the patient's claim is denied, you
can always send it again and try for a different result. It
may also help to ask the patient's doctor to write a letter
to the insurance company, explaining the need for certain
procedures. Sometimes, this will lead the insurance company
to re-examine a claim. If you have tried these suggestions,
and are still not happy with the result, you can ask the insurance
company about their procedure for resolving disputed claims.
You can also contact a lawyer or your state insurance regulator.
a claim as soon as you receive a medical bill.
check your work to make sure the information on the claim
form is correct.
sure to attach all supporting documents (e.g. copies of
photocopies of bills, submitted claims, payment stubs
from the insurance company, explanations of benefits,
and insurance company findings.
the insurance company if you have any questions or are
unsure about anything to do with making a claim.
notes on your phone conversations, including the name
of the insurance agent, the date of the call, and the
information you were given.
from McFarlane & Bashe, 1998)